Friday, July 10, 2009

Wisdom Is Thrown Into Jail rots in a cell, is misguided as hell, leaving no one to pick up a trail
(From "Political World," Oh Mercy)

The Royals have traded for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, and frankly, I don't understand why. We know Dayton Moore has had a mancrush on Betancourt for a while, since he supposedly once wanted to trade Billy Butler to Seattle for him, a deal every Royal fan should be thankful never happened.

In my opinion, the Royals' biggest problem this year is offense; specifically, an inability to get on base. The Royals could survive their lack of power if they were getting on base more regularly, but of course they have the worst on-base percentage in the American League (in fact, they are tied with San Francisco for the worst in baseball). Betancourt is unlikely to do anything to help that. He currently has an OBP of .278. That's horrible. In fact, the only Royal regular with a lower OBP is catcher Miguel Olivo, who is at .272 and can claim he has reached base on strikeouts as often as he has on walks this season (3 of each). But at least Olivo is leading the team in homers with 13. Betancourt has never even reached double digits in a season in that category.

Betancourt is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, but that is no excuse for such a horrendous OBP. And this is who Betancourt is. He's never had an OBP over .310 in a season. Even for someone who's played in a pitcher's park, he has little power; his highest slugging percentage was .418 in 2007. And he doesn't even steal bases well, with only 24 in his five seasons, against 20 times caught stealing.

Essentially, the Royals have added another player with no special offensive skill, a player who in fact is below league average offensively. Betancourt's OPS+ is 63 this season (100 is league average). That's a couple of points better than Mitch Maier. That's not good enough. Although he has averaged an 88 OPS+ in his three full MLB seasons, that's still below average.

Even worse, Betancourt is 27, so this is theoretically his peak season. He is unlikely to get any better, and in fact will probably decline from his already modest offensive output. And his contract runs through 2011, with a club option for 2012, meaning the Royals are likely stuck with this on-base sinkhole for two seasons.

And I haven't even mentioned the fact the Royals gave up not one, but two minor league pitchers for this. One of those pitchers, Danny Cortes, was considered one of the Royals' best pitching prospects, even though he has struggled at the AA level this year. Look for him to crack the Mariners' rotation about the time the Royals decline that 2012 option on Betancourt.

Finally, I don't understand this move in the big picture of the major league roster. Betancourt's offensive numbers are not even as good as Willie Bloomquist's have been this season. Sure, Bloomquist isn't really a shortstop, but the Royals have already made clear they don't consider defense a priority. Presumably, Betancourt will be the fulltime shortstop and Bloomquist will go back to filling in where needed at multiple positions, thereby weakening an already pitiful offense. And this is also doesn't make sense for next year, when Mike Aviles will at some point return from his Tommy John surgery. Aviles may never be the offensive player he was last year, but he figures to be better than Betancourt. Yet he may now be without a position, since the Royals are unlikely to move him to second and replace Alberto Callaspo.

Then again, Callaspo is one of three full-time players on the Royals roster with an OPS+ over 100. So perhaps he is targeted for replacement too; he obviously does not fit with the Royals' team concept.

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